Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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are, to my mind, the best. Among them Prebendary
John Upton, who published an important edition of
the poem, with notes, in 1758, made an attempt to
identify some of the leading allegorical characters,
observing that " if the reader cannot see through these
disguises, he will see nothing but the dead letter." It is
remarkable that we have never got much beyond what
he attempted in this way, but I think we are never likely
to do so until some reasonable relation has been
established between the author and his work ; in other
words, until we find out who, and what manner of
man, he was.

The " Redcrosse Knight " (Book I.) is, in my opinion,
the author himself, under one aspect. He is described

' The best of them are collected in Todd's edition of Spenser's Works,


in the Ralegh letter as "a tall clownishe younge man,"
who coming to the Queen's Court at first " rested him
on the floore, unfitte through his rusticity for a better
place " (an allegory of his inexperience) ; but when
clothed in the armour, " he seemed the goodliest man in
al that company." He represents the author's confident
outlook, and his aspirations on the religious and philo-
sophical side, at the age of eighteen, on his return to
England from the Continent, The Dragon represents
intellectual as well as spiritual ignorance. The beauty
and earnestness of this book are significant of the
author's youth.

" Guyon " (Book II.) also represents the author, but
at a later stage : the man in the temptations of the
world. The book is less visionary than the former one,
and bears the stamp of more worldly experience. The
characters of Guyon and the Redcrosse Knight are, in
my belief, purposely confused in Books II. and III., the
author's intention being to indicate that they represent
different phases of the same personality. This will be
explained more fully in a later chapter.^

Upton thought that " the Earl of Essex is imaged in
Sir Guyon ; Dr. Whitgift, his sometime tutor, in the
reverend Palmer." But Essex was only born in 1567,
and, even apart from that, to represent Essex as the
champion of continence and self-government, and the
destroyer of the " Bowre of blis," would surely have
been the height of absurdity. Another, and greater,
pupil of Whitgift at Trinity was Francis Bacon. I think
the *' blacke Palmer " is Grindal, whom evidently Bacon,
as well as the author of the Shepheards Calender, admired.
Grindal began to go blind and lost his health before
his death, which occurred in July 1583 (aet. 64), and
this tallies with the description in Canto i. 7 :

Him als accompanyed upon the way

A comely Palmer, clad in black attyre,

Of rypest yeares, and heares all hoarie gray,

> See Chapter XVII.


That with a staff his feeble steps did stire,

Least his long way his aged liinbes should tire :

And, if by lookes one may the mind aread,

He seemed to be a sage and sober syre ;

And ever with slow pace the Knight did lead,

Who taught his trampling steed with equall steps to tread.

In a paper submitted by Bacon to King James in
1603 '"'touching the better pacification and edification
of the Church of England," it is to Archbishop Grindal
that he refers when he says that " prophesying " (clerical
meetings for the practice of preaching, as explained in
a passage of great interest) was " put down . . . against
the advice and opinion of one of the greatest and gravest
prelates of this land."^ Grindal was suspended by the
Queen, and it is, of course, to those proceedings that
Spenser alludes in the Eclogue for "July": "But I am
taught by Algrind's ill." The description of the Palmer
does not suit Whitgift, nor was the poet, with his
self-centred disposition and belief in his own mission,
likely to think of himself in the relation of any man's
pupil. The Palmer is a ghostly attendant on the knight.
I think the stealing of Guyon's horse by Braggadochio ^
(which Guyon does not recover till V. iii. 29) is an
allusion to Bacon's loss of position and prospects by the
death of his father in January 1579, who also, it is said,
had omitted to make the provision for him which he
intended. The strange representation of the Angel, sent
to minister to Guyon after his trial in Canto viii. 1-8, in
the person of something like the pagan " Cupid," is
evidently intended for the poet's genius.

" Arthegall," as the lover of Britomart, stands, in the
original conception, for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester,
the Queen's favourite at that time. The question of her
marriage with Alcn^on was, in 1579, a subject of acute
national and political feeling. The poet, being at that
time an adherent of Leicester, shows him in the magic
mirror, under the person of Arthegal, as the Queen's future

' Spedding, I.ife^ iii. 119. 2 jj jj ,,^ ^-^^ \\ jji


husband (III. ii. 22-25). His death, however, in September
1588, upset the story, so, by an ingenious device, Arthegal
is transformed into Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, the
new favourite. Perhaps I should give my reasons for this
statement here. Merlin, consulted by Britomart (with the
nurse Glauc^), says that the man she has seen in the
mirror is " Arthegall " (iii. 26), who will help Britomart
(the Queen) to withstand " the powre of forreine Paynims
which invade thy land" (27). This evidently refers to
Leicester as Earl Marshal of the Forces on the approach
of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The next stanza (from
Merlin's speech) points to the advantage of a marriage
for the purpose of the succession, and indicates that
the author may have believed in the story that Leicester
was poisoned by his third wife, Lettice Knollys, the
widow of the late Earl of Essex. Possibly, however, the
lines were put in to please Elizabeth, who hated her.

Great ayd thereto his mighty puissaunce
And dreaded name shall give in that sad day ;
Where also proofe of thy prow valiaunce
Thou then shalt make, t' increase thy lover's pray.
Long time ye both in amies shall beare great sway,
Till thy wombes burden thee from them do call,
And his last fate him from thee take away ;
Too rathe cut off by practise criminall
Of secrete foes, that him shall make in mischiefe fall.

Now comes the ingenious transformation (29) :

With thee yet shall he leave, for memory
Of his late puissaunce, his ymage dead.
That living him in all activity
To thee shall represent. He, from the head
Of his coosen Constantius, without dread
Shall take the crowne that was his fathers right,
And therewith crowne himselfe in th' others stead :
Then shall he issew forth with dreadful! might
Against his Saxon foes in bloody field to fight.

" His ymage dead " means the image of himself dead,
which is to live in his successor in the Queen's favour,
and console her for her loss by being so like the de-
parted favourite that she will not feel the difference.


There is an analogy as well from the relations of father
and son, the young Earl of Essex being the stepson of
the Earl of Leicester, who had also introduced him at
Court. In what follows, the construction, after the
manner of oracles, is ambiguous. " His coosen Con-
stantius " might mean Sir Philip Sidney, whose mother
was Dudley's sister, and therefore when Dudley married
the mother of Essex, he and Philip Sidney became
cousins by marriage. In that case " his fathers " would
mean the father of Constantius, and " the crowne that
was his fathers right " the governorship of Ireland, Sir
Henry Sidney having been known as the " King of
Ireland," and having looked forward to his son Philip
succeeding him in the government of that country. Sir
Philip Sidney's death in 1586 put an end to these hopes ;
therefore the transfer of rule to Essex would be " without
dread," that is, without offence. But political considera-
tions, as well as the construction itself, point rather to
" his fathers " meaning the father of the new favourite,
namely Leicester, and, in that case, " his coosen Con-
stantius " must mean James of Scotland (whose cousin
Essex would become by marrying the Queen), and " the
crowne that was his fathers right " would mean the Crown
of England, which Leicester had narrowly missed secur-
ing. Written, as this passage evidently was, in 1588-89,
it indicates the far-reaching and ambitious thoughts in
the author's mind. If Essex had had more judgment, he
might possibly have succeeded Elizabeth, not only without
much opposition, but with popular acclamation, so strong
was the feeling among many against an alien sovereign.^
The heraldic allusion to Leicester as the "a Lyon" (of.
p. 27, above) in stanza 30 is additional evidence that
there has been an interpolation.

A double allusion might possibly be intended in a
later stanza in Merlin's prophecy :

' Compare, for example, Donne, Satire vii. 103 to end. For the popu-
larity of Essex with the Londoners, Shakespeare, Henry V. and Richard
11, and two street ballads in the British Museum (Roxburghe Coll.), written
after his execution, arc good evidence.


Tho, when the terme is full accomplishid,
There shall a sparke of fire, which hath longwhile
Bene in his ashes raked up and hid,
Bee freshly kindled in the fruitfull He
Of Mona, where it lurked in exile ;
Which shall breake forth into bright burning flame,
And reach into the house that beares the stile
Of roiall majesty and soveraine name :
So shall the Briton blood their crowne agayn reclame.

Upton explains this by the accession of Henry of
Richmond (Henry VH.) : "Henry descended from the
Tudors was born in Mona, now called Anglesey." This
is the obvious meaning, but the words might also be
made to apply to Ferdinando Stanley's right to the
succession to the English Crown through his mother
Margaret, granddaughter to Mary of France, the younger
sister of Henry VHI., who married (secondly) Charles
Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. The Earls of Derby were
Lords of Man, having obtained it by grant from the
Crown in 1406. The passage embodies the theory (very
popular in England) of the Briton origin from Brute
of Troy. Anglesey (" Mona Caesaris "), the home of the
Druids, was the island where, according to Tacitus, the
Britons made their last stand against the Romans, and
" Mona " is said to be the ancient name of that island ;
but Holinshed says it is the name for Man, and the
author may have had the significance in mind.^ Ferdi-
nando Stanley succeeded his father as 5th Earl of Derby
i" 1593- He was apparently a man of splendid tastes,
and maintained a company of players (known as " Lord
Strange's company "). He is celebrated by Spenser as
" Amyntas," and his wife, Alice, daughter of Sir John
Spencer of Althorp, as " Amaryllis." " He is also
eulogised by Nashe under the same name in a pas-
sage on which this stanza of Spenser perhaps throws
light. Nashe, in a book of a fantastic character called

• On further consideration I do not think this probable, but I have let the
paragraph stand as originally written, l)ecause I wish to draw attention to the
passage in Nashe which follows.

2 This lady lived into Milton's time, and her name is connected with his
"Arcades" and " Comus."


Pierce Penilesse his Supplication to the Divell, published
in 1592, affects to wonder how Spenser could have for-
gotten to include a sonnet for him in the catalogue of
sonnets to various noblemen, etc., annexed to " thy famous
Fairie Queene," and proceeds to supply one of his own,
which " long since I happened to frame." In this passage
he refers to Stanley's " farre derived discent," and describes
him as "the matchless Image of Honor, and magnificent
rewarder of vertue, loues eagle-borne Ganimed, thrice noble
Amintas " ; and adds, " None but Desert should sit in
Fames grace, none but Hector be remembered in the
chronicles of Prowesse, none but thou, most courteous
Amyntas, be the seconde musicall argument of the
knight of the Red-crosse." The first " musical argument "
of the Faerie Queene (which, it will be noticed, seems to
be here attributed to the Redcrosse Knight as the author
of it) is, no doubt. Queen Elizabeth. Stanley could only
appropriately be made the " second," if the poet had in
mind the possibility of his succeeding to the Crown.
But why should Nashe have "put in his oar" in such a
delicate matter? There is a point to notice in connec-
tion with this, that Spenser's poem {Colin Clouts Come
Home Again), which refers to Stanley under the name
of "Amyntas," did not appear till 1595, though it pur-
ports to have been sent over from Ireland to Ralegh in
a letter dated "From my house of Kilcolman, the 27
of December 1591." But the poem could not have
contained the reference to " Amyntas " then, because it
refers to him as dead, and Stanley's death occurred in
1594. Spenser is supposed to have returned to Ireland
early in I 591, and not to have returned to England till
the close of 1595- It is to be noted as a curious fact
that Nashe, writing in London in 1592, should have used
this name in the same connection.

Further evidence of the identity of the Earl of
Leicester with " Arthegall," before the transformation of
the character, is to be found in the following passages in
Canto ii. of Book III.— "the noble Arthegall" (9); his
" prowesse paragone "(13); " portly his person was " (24) ;


the whole description perfectly tallying with Dudley at
that age.^ Upton suggested that " His crest was covered
with a couchant Hownd " (25) meant the " GRAY-hound,"
and I think he was right, though it did not occur to him
that the object was to divert the very obvious allusions to
Leicester in the preceding stanzas from him to Lord Grey.
The writer, who follows generally Geoffrey of Mon-
mouth's pretended History, has invented " Arthegall " as a
half-brother (by implication) of Arthur, with whom he is
used interchangeably ; and I feel sure he got the sug-
gestion, not by anagram, as is supposed, from Arthur
Lord Grey, but from " Arthgallo," brother of Gorbonian, " a
most just king," and himself (after afflictions) a ruler " who
exercised strict justice towards all men." " But the name
happened also to suit Lord Grey, and so serve for conceal-
ment. Confirmation of this is found in the way in which
" Arthgallo," in his proper place in the succession, has been
altered (to avoid confusion) to " Archigald " (H. x. 44).

Additional evidence of a decisive character of the
identity of Essex with " Arthegall " at the time when
the first three books were published appears in Book IL
Canto ix. 6 :

And in her favor high bee reckoned,

As Arthegall and Sophy now beene honoured.

Compare Bacon's " Discourse in Praise of the Queen,"
written, as is supposed, for a Court device in 1591 or
1592 : "What shall I say of the great storm of a mighty
invasion, not of preparation, but in act, by the Turk upon
the King of Poland, lately dissipated only by the beams
of her reputation, which with the Grand Signor is greater
than that of all the states of Europe put together." On

1 Cf. the following description of Leicester (as I believe, from personal
knowledge— see Chapter VII.) in *' Leicester's Ghost " :

" My brain had wit, my tongue was eloquent.
Fit to discourse or tell a courtly tale ;
My presence portly, brave, magnificent,

My words imperious, stout, substantiall ;
My gestures loving, kind, heroicall ;

My thoughts ambitious, proud, and full of ire,
My deeds were good and bad, as times require."
^ G. of M., Hist. Brit. iii. 16, 17. Holiiished calls him " Archigallus."


which Spedding quotes a letter from William Cecil,
Burghley's grandson, to Lord Talbot, 23rd October 1590,
in which it is stated that the Turk withdrew his forces
" only for her Majesty's sake." And "the Turk himself hath
written to her Majesty letters with most great titles, assuring
her that if she would write her letters to him to require him,
he will make the King of Spain humble himself to her."
In the same paragraph in Bacon's " Discourse," dealing with
the Queen's " merit of her neighbours and the states about
her," reference is clearly made to the employment of Essex
in assisting Henry IV. in F'rance in 1591, and he is de-
scribed under the phrase " one that she favoureth most." ^
This expedition is one of the episodes in Book V. of
the Faerie Queene, and in it further proof is found that
Arthegal is intended to represent Essex. The author is
dealing with Elizabeth's "justice," and, going back in
history, he displays, under the figure of Prince Arthur
(who represents here, generally, the pride and power of
England, with an allusion in the " particular " perhaps
to Sir John Norris ^ and, in the later history, to Leicester),
her succour of the Netherlands in their struggle against
Spain and the Inquisition (Cantos x. and xi.). At stanza
36 of Canto xi. he turns "to the noble Artegall," and
begins the Irish episode. At stanza 43, however, he
breaks off to celebrate the assistance rendered by
Elizabeth to Henry of Navarre in his wars against the
Catholic League. Essex was the leader of the ex-
pedition (1591), and is therefore Arthegal. " Burbon "
(49) is, of course, Henry, and the Lady " Flourdelis "
is the French Crown. The shield which Burbon received
from the Redcrosse Knight is the Protestant faith, and
his changing it for another is an allusion to his formal
acceptance of Catholicism by hearing mass at St. Denis
in July 1593. A letter to him from Elizabeth survives
showing (if it is a genuine expression of her feelings,
as presumably it is) that she was much upset by the

* Sf)edding, Life, i. 135.

2 In the sonnet to Norris, among those prefixed to the first three books,
the writer says he has "eternized your name." I can find no other clear
evidence of this, but he may be among the " three brethren" in IV. ii. 45 sq.


news at the time, and in the poem expression of this
is put into the mouth of Arthegal. The poet, however,
characteristically recognises the plea of national unity, and
the exceptional position of princes, and makes Burbon
say in extenuation —

When time doth ser\'e,
My former shield I may resume again :
To temporize is not from truth to swerve,
Ne for advantage terme to entertain,
When as necessitie doth it constraine.

To which Arthegal replies, " Fie on such forgerie," etc. (56).
It is worth noticing that the metrical summary which
refers to this episode is misplaced (see Canto xii.), indi-
cating rearrangement. The summary for Canto xi. only
covers the material up to stanza 36.

We come now to the Irish episode (Book V. Canto
xi. stanzas 36-42, and Canto xii.). Lord Grey, who is
always said to be Arthegal, could not, by any natural
construction, be so intended, as he was never a favourite
of the Queen. Moreover, he died in October 1593, at
the age of 57, before the appearance of the last three
books ; also between that time and his return from
Ireland in 1582 he had lived in retirement at his home
in Buckinghamshire. The mistake arises, in my opinion,
from a misunderstanding of Canto xii. In that canto
Arthegal is made, so to speak, to take up Grey's
personality for the purpose of pointing out to the Queen
and her advisers the futility of a weak policy in Ireland, and
of showing Essex how he should act when his time came ;
or, if not his, then some other commander's. For some
years before this book appeared Bacon had been devoting
himself to the career of the young Earl of Essex, through
whom he endeavoured to give effect to his own political
views, and whose fortune he at that period (1596)
regarded as " comprehending " his own ; ^ and in the Viciv

^ Letter of advice to the Earl of Essex dated 4th October 1596 : "Con-
sider, first, whether I have not reason to think that your fortune compre-
hendeth mine."

Cf. Bacon's Essay, Of FoUcnveis and Friends : "There is little friendship


of the Present State of Ireland, written the same year,
Essex is plainly pointed to as the man for Irish business.
At that time also Tyrone had been in open rebellion for
a year, and affairs in Ireland were in a very grave condi-
tion. Hence the poet revives the memory of Grey,
whose policy, based on that of Sir Henry Sidney, was
one of complete subjugation as a condition precedent to
reforms. Spenser's view is that he was not allowed to
finish his work, and that owing to the vacillation of the
Queen and her advisers it was all rendered abortive. The
vindication of Grey, " that most just and honorable person-
age," from the charge of being a " bloody " man, which
appears in the View} is, I think, intended mainly for the
purpose of showing that the policy of " thorough " there
recommended, though harsh in appearance, was not incon-
sistent with a more far-seeing benevolence.

The Irish episode is written entirely from the point of
view of England, and from that situation locally. Arthegal's
adventure was —

to worke Irenaes franchisement
And eke Grantortoes worthy punishment.
So forth he fared, as his manner was,
With onely Talus wayting dihgent.
Through manye perils ; and much way did pas,
Till nigh unto the place at length approcht he has.

The lady "Irena" (in one place written "Irene") is
evidently " Ireland," with the suggestion " peace " (from
the Greek eirene), the word being formed out of the
letters of " Ireland," or the ancient name " lerne." She
is in thrall to Grantorto (Spain, or more probably the Pope).
" Sir Sergis " is, I think, probably Ormonde, and it seems
possible that the name has been formed out of " Fitz-
gerald," the name of his mother, who was daughter and
heiress of James, i ith Earl of Desmond. That title had

in the world, and least of all between equals, which was wont to be
mai^nificd [perhaps meaning "exaggerated"; a reference to philosophical
treatises of antiquilyj. Tiiat that is is between superior and inferior, whose
fortunes may comprehend the one the other."

• "Globe" ed., p. 656. See further in Chapter XIX.


become extinct through the attainder of the late Earl, and
the Desmond estates had been turned into the Munster
Settlement ; so there was some fitness in recognising
Ormonde through his mother's descent. The Karl of
Ormonde was born in 1532, and though he lived till
1614, he might be regarded as "an aged wight" (xi. 37),
being at this time over 60. Irena's suit to the Queen
would refer to Ormonde's visits to London, beginning
with the one when he sought to reconcile Shan O'Neill
to Elizabeth's rule (1561). The breaking of promise to
Irena refers to Elizabeth's failure to support Grey,
which led to his recall at his own request in 1582, and
(in the view of the author) to all the subsequent troubles,
culminating in the Tyrone rebellion, fostered by Spain
and the Papacy, then in progress/ Sir Arthegal, though
much " abashed," declares that the fault was partly due
to Sir Sergis, which I take to be a reference to the fact
that the Queen was induced by him to proclaim a pardon
in April 1581 to the rebels, except Desmond and his
brother, and to the charges made against Ormonde of
disloyalty during Grey's administration. It will be
observed that this is put ambiguously through the use of
the plural "ye" (41). Arthegal promises to be Irena's
champion, and, after aiding Burbon, proceeds under com-
mission from " Great Gloriane " against " Grantorto "
(Canto xii.). The delay in taking in hand the exploit
is here attributed to Elizabeth's preoccupations with the
Netherlands and France, but the time having now arrived,
he takes ship with Talus, and —

The winde and weather served them so well
That in one day they with the coast did fall,

^ For she presuming on th' appointed tyde,
For which ye promised, as ye were a knight,
To meet her at the salvage Hands syde,
And then and there for triall of her right
With her unrighteous enemy to fight,
Did thither come ; where she, afrayd of nought,
By guileful treason and by subtill slight
Surprized was, and to (irantorto brought,
Who her imprizoned hath, and her life often sought.

(xi. 39-)


Their landing being opposed, Talus chases away the hosts

on the shore, and Arthegal proclaims that his quarrel is

only with Grantorto (the papal power) ; he slays Gran-

torto, the people acknowledge Irena, and Arthegal sets to

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